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Community Voices

The Penn Law community is highly accomplished, adept, and vibrant. Students, Faculty, and Alumni are active contributors in diverse areas of study and practice, and engage in other professional pursuits that add value to the legal profession. Each member brings new and scholarly perspectives that strengthen our learning spaces and facilitate a more worldly view that we purposefully elevate and amplify. 

 

I identify as a Jew, woman, and a first generation professional. Each part of my identity brings forth its own unique challenges, and each intersection pushes me to both find my voice and to find acceptance within the normative culture. Conversations of and experiences with Antisemitism, religious persecution, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and discrimination are personal to me, and these experiences are motivating factors in my pursuit to understand the protections available through our legal system, which has guided my experience at Penn Law.” 

Jamie Baum L’22 

All parts of my identity are salient, though depending on the context and situation one characteristic may be more at the forefront than others. With students, my teacher identity is up front - where I am constantly thinking: am I getting the materials across, are they engaged and interested. If I am with a Latinx grassroots organization, relying on my Latino heritage is uppermost in trying to understand their immigration issues and the same applies when I’m with Asian American communities.” 

- Fernando Chang-Muy JD ’82

As a biracial (Black and white) woman who grew up in a lower socioeconomic household, I vividly remember attending my first law firm networking reception. I was stunned as I watched my classmates effortlessly connect and make conversation with the attorneys while I felt completely out of place. As Director of Private Sector Recruiting at Penn, I am pleased to see law firms ramping up efforts to diversify the legal profession. My favorite part of the job is advising students and guiding them as they navigate unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. I do my best to help students feel confident in how they present themselves .

- Joanna Craig JD ’08

I arrived in the US as a kindergartener and was naturalized as a middle schooler. I mostly didn’t identify as an immigrant and emphasized my “Americanness” as much as possible. Recent politics have made me focus much more on that experience and how I can do more to support immigrants’ rights and LatinX advocacy. The emphasis when I was growing up was on assimilation, so I’ve had more practice with code switching than integrating identities, although I didn’t have the vocabulary for it before. Penn Law was already a diverse and welcoming place when I was a student, but there are even more opportunities to find community and ways to express identity now. It has been heartening to watch that evolution as an alum and rewarding to find ways to participate in inclusion initiatives and support student groups like LALSA as a staff member.

- Gabriela Femenia JD ’00

I am a woman. I am a Black woman. I am African American. I am Puerto Rican. I am from Queens, New York. I am a mother. I am a teacher. I am a lawyer. I am a first-generation lawyer. I am a social justice lawyer. Because of my identity and experiences, I am deeply familiar with issues such as systemic racism, structural inequality, and the grave consequences of implicit and explicit bias. I acknowledge the privilege of my education and the uniqueness of my perspective, and am committed to helping others, working with students, serving clients and advancing the goals of social justice.

- Jennifer Fernandez JD ’13

As a white, non-binary, queer, neurodivergent, non-Native, and disabled person, I’m acutely aware of what these identities mean to me and what they can mean to others. Depending on the context of where I am on campus, different parts of me are routinely asked/forced/invited to shrink, expand, or maintain equilibrium. Sometimes I shrink for safety. Other times I expand for advocacy. Then thereare times I maintain balance in spaces of familiarity. Nevertheless, they are always present and in constant dialogue.

- Loran Grishow-Schade ML’21

I live and thrive at the intersection of my identities – I am Black. I am Puerto Rican. I am woman. I am Caribbean. I am the only daughter of an only daughter. I am an advocate. I am rooted in my cultural and ethnic identities as I navigate everyday life and work. I still wrestle with the idea of bringing my whole self to work and what that exactly entails. It can be a struggle to be vulnerable and authentic in professional spaces. I am proud of my heritage and the way it has shaped my personal life and professional career. My identity as a Black Latina woman impacts the work I do. It informs how I approach service and particularly how I advocate for communities of color.

- Alisha Rodriguez JD ’15

As a first-generation, Black woman, the most salient part of my identity is my race. When I enter a classroom, the first thing that comes to mind is, “how many people look like me?” This question has stuck with me throughout my teen and young adult years. Although there is a disparity in representation of Black law students, I’m reminded of my history—particularly the Little Rock Nine—who were courageous and relentless in their push for equity and access to education.

- Chayla Sherrod L’23